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One highly opinionated feminist YA nerd's twisted, snarky and informative journey through the genre's perils, pitfalls and sparkles.

Review - "Shine" by Lauren Myracle.


Author: Lauren Myracle.

Publisher:Amulet Books.

Pages: 376.

Synopsis (taken from Myracle’s website): When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

Cover impressions: Before this, I had never read a Lauren Myracle book yet I had always had a level of respect for her based upon her currently being the most banned or challenge author in USA. Her books are challenged for most of the usual reasons YA and kids books are challenged; unsuited to age group, drug references, explicit sexuality, bad language, all that good stuff. With all this in mind, I was eager to see how she handled the topic of gay hate crimes with her latest book, due to be released in May this year. Following my last reading choice, which wasn’t so thrilling, I was looking for something to lift my YA spirits, which “Shine” did, completely exceeding even my wildest expectations.

From the first page, where a newspaper cutting details the horrific crime against Patrick, I was gripped by the story. Myracle has this wonderful talent for saying so much but using so few words. Even when dealing with difficult topics that could easily fall into ham-fisted soap opera territory (homophobia, small town bigotry, meth, sexual assault), Myracle manages to tackle them with sensitivity and make them feel real. The people of Black Creek use language as their main weapon, be it through church gossip or the horrible slurs thrown around casually at different characters (there is frequent use of the ‘f’ word in this book, along with several other similar slurs, but it never feels exploitative or like it’s downplaying their effect. You feel every single one of those insults and they hurt, because words like that exist for a reason and can be very powerful weapons.) The group of small town regulars that make up the story manage to stay on the right side of characterisation – it’s so easy to fall into clichés when talking about small town America, or small town anywhere, so huge credit goes to Myracle for keeping things realistic, gritty and often very ugly.

The general atmosphere created by the book is one of stifling suspicion. Black Creek is a town where everybody knows everything but somehow there still manages to be a myriad of secrets just boiling below the surface. It’s a town where ugliness is just hidden away, occasionally slipping through via a misjudged comment, a shameful confession or something worse. Myracle really nails the dread that Cat feels constantly throughout the story; she’s not even safe in her own town and doesn’t know if she can really trust anyone. Cat is a fascinating and extremely sympathetic character who I think a lot of people will be able to relate but she’s also one that keeps fighting, even when she thought she couldn’t go any further. Watching her story slowly unfold was as interesting to me as the mystery she was trying to solve. The mystery at the heart of “Shine”, that of the identity of Patrick’s attacker, is finely crafted and often very surprising.

The thing about this book that’s really stuck with me is how real it feels. It’s not cartoonish, it never exaggerates or plays down events or reactions, it just presents things are they are. Sometimes nothing else needs to be said. It’s often heartbreaking to read scenes where Patrick’s sexuality is casually described as evil (with much worse language than I care to use), even by the people he calls his friends. It’s portrayal of bigotry is simple, relatable and all too real; it’s something that we see every day, be it through reading of deplorable acts of violence or just a simple word carelessly dropped into conversation. Often no real ill is meant with the latter but we’ve become so conditioned to shrug off the ugly and pretend it’s not there that often it blends in with everyday life and we do forget it’s a bad thing. Once we stop pointing out wrongs and calling out the bad words and actions and bigotry, they become somewhat acceptable for everyone to use. Myracle does a great job, by saying so little, of telling the world that such things are not, never were and will never be acceptable.

Of course the book isn’t perfect, nothing ever is (there are a couple bits where the plotting is loose and Cat finding some strength through a guy felt clichéd and a bit forced, but in the instance of her character, I just couldn’t begrudge her any happiness) but I was so gripped, moved and entertained by this book that I can put them aside. I think “Shine” is a book that deserves a heap of attention. It discusses several important issues for teens yet never talks down to them and weaves them through a well crafted, gripping mystery populated with complex characters and a portrayal of small town life and bigotry that’s all too real. The sad thing is I think this book’s going to cement Myracle’s position on the ALA Banned/Challenged author list for another year. I implore you all to check out this book and, if the time comes, to fight against those who want to ignore the obvious.


“Shine” will be released in USA in May 2011. I received my ARC from NetGalley.

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Review - "Crescendo" by Becca Fitzpatrick.


Author: Becca Fitzpatrick.

Publisher: Simon and Schuster.

Pages: 427.

Synopsis (taken from GoodReads): Nora Grey's life is still far from perfect. Surviving an attempt on her life wasn't pleasant, but at least she got a guardian angel out of it: a mysterious, magnetic, gorgeous guardian angel. But, despite his role in her life, Patch has been acting anything but angelic. He's more elusive than ever and even worse, he's started spending time with Nora's arch-enemy, Marcie Millar.

Nora would have hardly noticed Scott Parnell, an old family friend who has moved back to town, if Path hadn’t been acting so distant. Even with Scott's totally infuriating attitude Nora finds herself drawn to him - despite her lingering feeling that he's hiding something.

Haunted by images of her murdered father, and questioning whether her nephilim bloodline has anything to do with his death, Nora puts herself increasingly in dangerous situations as she desperately searches for answers. But maybe some things are better left buried, because the truth could destroy everything - and everyone - she trusts.

Cover impressions: So... I gave in. A little bit of history: my recap/review/exasperated rant of maximum strength of Becca Fitzpatrick’s debut, “Hush, Hush”, the 3rd book in the original Sparkle Project, is probably the thing I’m most well known for. In short, I hated the book, primarily because I just couldn’t believe that the author was writing a so-called love story where Patch, the designated male love interest’s abhorrent actions, including stalking, sexual harassment, borderline abuse and threats of murder, were considered okay because he was a sexy bad boy. There is a scene in “Hush, Hush” where Patch holds Nora down on a bed and tells her how he has planned to kill her... then he kisses her. And this is all okay. I hated this book so much I threw it against a wall twice and it’s become the marker of comparison for every YA book I read in terms of bad romance. I wasn’t going to review “Crescendo” at first. After all, what would be the point? My view of “Hush, Hush” was never going to change, even if its sequel ended up being the YA equivalent of “The Dark Knight.” But the honest truth is this; I wanted to see if things got better. Or worse. Fitzpatrick has gone on the record as saying it took her 5 years to write her first book and she had no intention of writing a sequel until her agent got her a 2 book deal (she now has a three book deal with “Silence” due out this Autumn) so I wanted to see how everything changed. To be honest, I wanted to see what happened next with Patch and Nora. How exactly does one write a romance that’s so obviously dangerous and messed up and pretend everything’s okay? I saw a copy of the book in my local library and decided just to go for it.

I need to state this up front, since book bloggers are getting a bad name lately and the atmosphere in YA blogging has become really tense lately; I don’t go into books looking to write bad reviews. Even with the original Sparkle Project, my intention was to analyse a genre trend from the point of view of a feminist YA nerd and spot its problems and perils. Yes, I did it in an incredibly snarky manner which has led some people to disregard my reviews, but my intention was and still is to give the genre the analysis it deserves. It’s not a lesser, inferior mode of literature that deserves a lower opinion from readers. I didn’t go into “Crescendo” wanting to hate it. Honestly, I really wanted this to be better because I want to believe so much that one day we can stop bullshitting around and messing up perceptions of romance and relationships for teenagers. But the honest truth is that “Crescendo” is a huge disappointment, depressingly so.

The thing that worried me from the offset in this book, one chapter in (ignoring the prologue that clumsily sets up the intrigue but really gives everything away), is the establishment of Marcie, a flat, incidental character from the first book, as Nora’s ‘nemesis.’ She is immediately set up as the polar opposite of Nora based on her promiscuous dress sense. A former friend of Nora’s, she now apparently loathes her solely because “you were born.” She doesn’t get any deeper level of character development throughout the story. She’s the bad girl, the bully, the slut.

The slut. And she’s shamed at every possible moment for it. Nora, supposedly the good girl and polar opposite of Nora, frequently makes bad handed references to Marcie being a slut or a whore or any variation on that term and this is reason enough to hate her. Her sexuality is used as a reason to dislike Marcie (although, conveniently enough for Nora, it’s okay for her to be sexually suggestive as well as Patch, because bad boys equal sexy while bad girls equal sluts, and Patch and Nora never actually have sex so they’re pure and worthy to mock Marcie). Being sexually active in any sort of way isn’t just bad, it makes you a bad person. It’s also Marcie who’s constantly at fault in these issues, never Nora or Patch. It’s Marcie that steals Patch from Nora, even though Nora broke up with him! Nora’s never the bad person, even when she admits to doing bad things to Marcie (the instance given – Nora deliberately picking an unflattering photo of Marcie for the school magazine – while rather petty, is important to note because Nora is never chastised for these sort of incidents but Marcie constantly is. She also steals Marcie’s diary for further slut-shaming opportunities.)

Marcie isn’t the only one that suffers from weak characterisation. Vee, supposedly Nora’s best friend, is here once again to be fat and a form of comic relief, apparently her only defining traits. Scott, the jerk that isn’t Patch, embodies all of the traits Patch has but because he isn’t the designated love interest, he’s not as sexy (but still aesthetically pleasing of course). Nora and Patch don’t evolve at all. In fact, they become even more annoying. Nora, when she isn’t slut shaming to the maximum, has devolved into vaguely psychotic stalker girlfriend territory and Patch is still an utter creep. The majority of their conversations are made up of supposedly charming innuendo which, if coming out of the mouth of someone who didn’t look like a male model, would be sexual harassment, and arguments over petty nothingness in an attempt to get some plot into this story-less mess. Almost everyone in this story knows that Patch is bad news and often tell Nora this, yet common sense just doesn’t exist to her (although her mother seems adamant on setting her up with an equally big douche-bag with a criminal record who seems to get the free pass Patch doesn’t because he was an old childhood friend of Nora’s.)

She also seems to be obsessively in lust with Patch rather than love. It’s been established that he cannot feel anything for her on a physical level (so I’m guessing his constant creepy sex talk is some form of over-compensation) but he admits to loving her emotionally, but she says, when breaking up with him (probably her smartest moment), “When I kiss my boyfriend, I want to know he feels it.” I tried to find 5 things that Nora and Patch had in common, something for them to discuss as a couple, hobbies to share and the like, and couldn’t find a thing (school activities do not count.) Their obsessive ‘love’ is their only defining trait, although Nora also seems to be make a beeline into the field of amateur stalking and kleptomania. The relationship seems to be following the now standard pattern for YA – book one = establishment of true but oh so forbidden love and book two = circumstances bring love to a temporary end. The male figures are constantly asserting their dominance like it’s a peacock strutting competition; there’s one worrying scene where Scott grabs Nora and she screams for help yet nobody does. Someone even laughs at her. Between this and the horrid biology scene in the first novel, I can’t help but worry about the attitudes towards women in these books, especially when it’s fair to use the word ‘attack.’ The story is so clearly following a derivative pattern that you can practically seen the join-the-dots. While there is less emphasis on the love story – phew – the mystery that makes up the majority of the plot plods along with no real finesse or surprises, with characters doing and saying stupid stuff solely for plot advancement. There are a few interesting moments here and there but it’s all handled so clumsily with inconsistent plotting that it’s difficult to care, a hefty task when this novel is also populated with a cast that varies from the forgettable to the lazily characterized to the downright awful.

It all wraps up with a big cliff hanger that has potential but having been burned so much from this sequel, even my masochistically curious side isn’t very interested in seeing what happens next. “Crescendo” is not a good book in any sense of the word. It suffers from the same problems “Hush, Hush” did – poor plotting and pacing, weak characterisation, lazy mythos, derivative and predictable paranormal romance traits – as well as some elements I just can’t ignore. I hate slut-shaming, everyone should hate it. It’s a false stereotype, it does nothing but label and demeans women and it reinforces old assumptions about women and sex that we just do not need in our world, especially in our teenage world. Marcie Millar is characterised solely on her sexuality and how bad it makes her. She likes sex because she’s bad and she’s bad because she likes sex. It’s unfair, it’s reinforcing stereotypes and it’s just plain lazy characterisation. On top of all this we have Nora Grey who has quickly become one of the most unlikeable, irrational, paranoid, hysterical and downright stupid characters in young adult fiction. I’m pretty offended on behalf of teenage girls everywhere that are supposed to relate to her. Good old Patch is out of the scene for a lot of this book but he remains a jerk. Nice to know some things don’t change. I worried about the reinforcement of rape culture in “Hush, Hush” and now I worry about the perpetuation of slut-shaming and the virgin-whore dichotomy in “Crescendo.” I shudder to think what “Silence” will bring us. Overall, yet again I remain perplexed as to how these books have become as popular as they have. We have to do better than filling books for teenage girls full of the same old falsehood that short skirts and an interest in sex equals a spoiled moral code. Surely we’re better than this?


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Review - "The Iron Fey Trilogy" by Julie Kagawa.

“The Iron Fey Trilogy”

Author: Julie Kagawa.

Publisher: Harlequin Teen.

Books: The Iron King, The Iron Princess and The Iron Queen.

Synopsis for The Iron King (taken from GoodReads): Meghan Chase has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined…

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school… or at home. When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change. But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

Cover impressions: When I was working in Waterstones (I miss that job so much) I noticed an article in the Publishers monthly magazine we were sent about Harlequin moving into the YA market and this was one of the books they were advertising very heavily, along with Rachel K. Vincent’s Soul Screamers series. I’m not really a fairy fan but the Midsummer Night’s Dream comparisons and the fact that I got an e-ARC of the 3rd book in the trilogy (from NetGalley) convinced me to pick the series up.

The series, and the elements within, are sort of a mixed bag. The characters are archetypal of the paranormal genre but there are a few gems within, the set up is very familiar but often executed with flair and creativity, the love story is deathly dull but the world building and mythology is fascinating. There’s a lot to cover and I’m going to do it spoiler free.

Meghan, our heroine, is your pretty standard paranormal YA heroine; she’s an outcast who thinks she’s plain but is actually gorgeous, she’s got family troubles, is supposed to be smart but often makes incredibly stupid decisions and exhibits bravery when necessary. She’s not the worst YA heroine I’ve come across but there was nothing particularly distinguishable about her either. Ash, the main love interest, was also equal levels of dull and the same old dark, mysterious and faintly jerky sexy hero we’ve become oh so accustomed to in the genre. Puck is more promising but the highly predictable love triangle set up does neuter him somewhat. In general, the love element just dragged everything down. I don’t know how much of this has to do with me just being so worn down by love stories in YA, especially three pronged ones, but it felt very samey and poorly developed. As always, things go from cold indifference to light contempt to undying love with no real exchanges beyond the stock formula. Part of its failing lies in the fact that our young lovers are just so damn boring. The real gems are in the supporting characters and the villains, even if the first book’s baddie did have me thinking a lot about Jareth from Labyrinth (which is never a bad thing!)

Kagawa has picked her inspirations from the best selection possible – you’ve got traditional fairy lore, Shakespearean comedy and some modern day stuff like Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, one of my childhood staples. The book really shines with its mythos – the traditional clashing with the modern, knowing full well that they can’t survive together, and the Iron Fey concept is genuinely great stuff. If you’re familiar with other fairy YA – Melissa Marr, Holly Black, etc – it may feel a little too familiar to you but it’s still interesting stuff. While the general set up of the trilogy feels very familiar, Kagawa handles it in an interesting way and keeps the plotting fast and interesting. The vast world is populated with a mish mash of creatures and characters that stop things from getting too dull. It’s a very readable series, even if it never fully steps into greatness.

And that’s how I can sum up this series without spoiling anything. Each book is good and very readable, with some great elements in amongst the overly familiar, and I did enjoy the books despite the view my review may present to you, but the books never ascend to greatness. They’re fun, light reads that won’t take up too much of your time and if you’re a fan of this sort of mythology, it’s definitely worth a read. I’m just finding it difficult to say anything more beyond this. Each book flows well and the series is relatively tightly plotted with some action and violence to keep you going through the plodding, deathly dull romance, and the supporting cast make up for the dishwater-like heroes, but it’s all fluffy, mindless fun.

The Iron King: 3.5/5.

The Iron Daughter: 3/5.

The Iron Queen: 3/5.

Coming next on The Sparkle Project: So... there's a copy of Becca Fitzpatrick's "Crescendo" in my local library... should I?

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What makes you say no?

Thanks for all the great comments my last couple of posts got pertaining to Bitch-gate and the discussion of feminist YA. As always feel free to continue commenting, I am so glad that the dust is dying down and we can actually have a proper talk on the topic. But the world continues to turn and there are always other fish to fry.

It's no secret that as well as being a book nerd I am a film buff. So when I saw that there was going to be an adaptation of the play God of Carnage starring one of my favourite actresses Kate Winslet, I was very excited, a feeling that only grew when I noticed Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster had also signed on. But my happiness was short lived when I noticed 4 words that meant I would never allow myself to pay money to see this film:

Directed by Roman Polanski.

I have the same basic attitude to Polanski as I do to Orson Scott Card; I don't want to give any of my money to either of them. In both instances, I can acknowledge their talent and influence but both are cases where their personal beliefs and actions have become too much for me to put aside and ignore in favour of judging their work based solely on its merits. I know Ender's Game is a good book and I know he's a good writer but I cannot review one of his books because all I can see and think about is his abhorrent views on homosexuality and how much money he donated to causes supporting Proposition 8 (check the comments in The Book Smugglers' review of his latest book for such discussion). With Polanski all I can think about is a man getting away with drugging and raping a 13 year old (and I continue to shudder at so many people in Hollywood whom I respect supporting him despite this disgusting thing he did.)

Sometimes I can separate the author and their work very easily - I'm a huge Disney fan even though Uncle Walt himself was a racist anti-Semitic sexist jerk who ratted out innocent people during the McCarthy years - but there are instances where it's impossible for me to do so. In the case of Scott Card it's because I can't allow myself to give the man money ergo indirectly donating to causes I oppose with every fibre of my being. Even though, I've been told, his work doesn't contain any instances of him expressing such views, it's pretty much impossible for me to separate the man and his work, especially since he chooses to put himself out there as a vocal anti-gay rights person.

This sort of stuff extends to other media for me - I avoid anything involving Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Chris Brown, etc. It may be a bit ridiculous to some, especially since me trying to avoid every film or piece of entertainment involving the countless people in the film/TV industry who signed that petition supporting Polanski would mean I couldn't watch any films ever (I did try for a couple of weeks), but it's what works for me. But it does make me something of a hypocrite since I enjoy the works of people whom I often have disagreements with or oppose on certain views - I love Stephen Moffat's work on Sherlock and Doctor Who even though his frequent misogynism bugs the hell out of me. I don't know what my mini protest is ever going to do with this sort of stuff - OSC's not going to stop being a bigot just because I refuse to buy his works, same for Brandon Sanderson and James Ellroy - but as I said, it works for me and it's no skin off my back never getting to read another Ender novel.

Where is the line for you? Can you separate the author and the work easier than I can?

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What makes it feminist?

So after the... interesting developments of yesterday's events, in which shit went down, accusations were made and the entire thing got blown so far out of proportion not many people came out of it looking good (I did end up talking to Jackson Pearce on twitter over this. We disagreed, as you can guess, but it went a whole lot better than my last YA author interaction), I think it's time for us to actually debate this issue properly, without cries of censorship (holy false equivalency Batman!), shoddy journalism and just general cliquey behaviour.

Bitch's list was interesting for a number of reasons but ultimately it was a subjective one because the definition of feminist YA has never really been explained at length. One person's Buffy Summers is another's Bella Swan, and as time passes, we bring more issues to the table and everything becomes that much murkier to decipher. So what makes a YA book feminist? To widen the issue, what makes any part of our media feminist?

I went to see two films yesterday - Tangled and Black Swan, both of which I loved (although the latter is going to haunt me for quite sometime. It's much more of a David Cronenberg style body horror movie than I thought it would be.) and both of which had some very interesting female characters. I'm going to discuss feminism in Disney movies at length in another post but I'll quickly note that I loved Rapunzel, thought she was funny, smart and strong and really grew over the course of the film. She's a decidedly more complex Disney princess than what we're used to. With Black Swan, the lead character Nina is, to put it bluntly, incredibly messed up. She's emotionally distant, lonely, suffers from several mental and medical disorders and she's striving so hard for a level of perfection that just doesn't exist that it drives her to the edge. It's a disgusting movie in places and it's often very hard to watch but it's fascinating to see this woman go through hell, since you sort of go through hell with her. Would I define any of these movies and their characters as feminist? It's a tough one to discuss; Black Swan isn't supposed to be a positive movie and I shudder to think that anyone would want to relate to Nina so it's hard to judge it by the standards I judge, say, a YA book to be feminist. For Tangled, I lean towards saying yes. It follows way too many of the typical Disney tropes and ends exactly how you'd imagine it but it's about a young woman striving to be her best who kicks butt and really grows as a character, which isn't really something we associate with Disney princesses.

Back to the topic I'm supposed to be discussing, defining something in YA as feminist sometimes requires a lot of thought. Even the best books can have problematic areas that one person may react more strongly to than another (Sisters Red is actually a pretty good example of this). The one defining trait that I myself require for a feminist YA novel is that the heroine not be completely obsessed with her boyfriend and be stuck in an all consuming love rut. It's dull to read, it's incredibly derivative and frankly it can get a bit cringey. Romance and feminist lit are not mutually exclusive, there are some fab romances out there in YA, I just require that the two romantic leads be equal on every level. No archaic gender stereotypes, no dragging a girl around or making threats and no holding her down against a bed while you tell her how you want to kill her. Pretty simple, right?

What else do I look for? There are a few things: not calling other girls sluts or slut shaming other characters is a bit one. It's got to stop and not just in YA *coughTaylorSwiftcough* With that, a healthy attitude towards sex is also ideal. She doesn't have to be handing out copies of The Purity Myth in the hallways at school but having a smart attitude towards it is pretty crucial for me. Of course, it would be good if she didn't constantly rely on others, mainly men, to save her from tough situations, but it depends on the situation of the character, the story, location, etc.

The example I usually use for a feminist YA is The Ruby In The Smoke by Philip Pullman. Sally Lockhart is smart, uses her initiative, stands up for herself in a predominantly male society, works so hard to not have to rely on others and strives for equality in all areas of life. Even in later books where her situation changes drastically (won't spoil it for you), she still holds her own and refuses to become passive.

Maybe we should make our own feminist YA list, or at least get together some recommendations so we can properly discuss their merits and issues. First, we need a proper definition of feminist YA. An all encompassing one would be impossible and simply not fair but some basic guidelines would be a good starting point. I eagerly await your comments.

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Bitch Magazine discussion from Pandora.

Several days ago my friend sent me the list to Bitch Magazine's list of 100 Young Adult books for the feminist YA reader. I thought it was a great list and got a lot of great recommendations from it. There were one or two which I found to be problematic, most notably the inclusion of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. I never reviewed the novel because The Book Smugglers did a much better job of doing so than I ever could have. They discussed the perpetuation of rape culture and victim blaming, most notably displayed in one scene where one of the sisters, a wolf hunter, comments on the scantily dressed, make up wearing young girls the wolves prey upon, asking if they'd dress the way they do if they knew wolves were going to attack them for it. Like Ana and Thea, I was disgusted by this part of the book and it ruined any further enjoyment the story may have given me because I couldn't get that image out of my head of someone shaking their finger at a young woman, telling her she should have known better than to wear that dress or dance like that or have a few drinks. It was rape culture of the highest order. I didn't think it was meant deliberately on Pearce's part but reality and intent are often so far away and the fact that it's become the norm in our society to have such attitudes says a lot about the way we perpetuate lazy stereotypes and myths. So I commented on Bitch as Pandora (I've been studying a lot of Greek tragedy lately for my course so I used that name, plus it's easier to pronounce than Ceilidh) expressing my concern and they took the book off the list. I didn't ask them to do that but they made the judgement call and they have the right to stick by it.

A few other books came off, notably Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, which I haven't read, and YA writers got pissed off. Maureen Johnson requested that her books be removed from the list too, citing some sort of YA author solidarity. Since I took particular offence to her calling the discussion on Bitch's website 'waffling' I thought I'd reply, first on Twitter and now here.

I don't think Sisters Red is feminist YA. I understand that such a definition is subjective but when a book perpetuates a norm of victim blaming and rape culture like that does then I can't possibly support it. I understand there's a massive difference between reality and intent and @ didn't mean it but then the story just reeks of lazy writing and easy conveniences - pretty girls should know better, wearing short skirts is bad, the victim is partially responsible when SHE NEVER IS! - and still perpetuates that rape culture that's permeated our society to the point where sometimes we miss it. @ didn't miss it & I applaud them for it. Besides that, the book also clearly favours the pretty passive sister who is easy to love over the damaged, scarred older sister who is more interesting but harder to write which I didn't think was fair. The way so many YA authors are reacting to this action is embarrassing. I know they're cliquey but that doesn't mean they can't question each other's work. I didn't ask for Bitch to remove Sisters Red from the list, they made that desicion. It wasn't bad journalism as some said. Obviously, if everyone at Bitch had read every book that would have been better but here we are. Frankly, throwing a hissy fit over this and calling Bitch and their commenters' discussions waffling won't solve anything. Why don't we fucking discuss the positive and problematic areas of YA and feminism together instead of throwing our toys out the pram? Bitch made a judgement call based on genuine concerns. They have a high standard to live up to and rightly so. They didn't tell people not to read the book and neither did I, they didn't call for it to be removed from bookshelves of from other websites, they didn't censor anything. They made a journalistic decision to remove something they saw as potentially problematic from their list. Simple as that. If YA authors think this is some form of waffling censorship then they're sorely mistaken.

Pandora's going to keep the box open on this and welcomes further discussion. The industry deserves at least that much.

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